The ODPMTT and building a Best Social Media Strategy

/ October 24, 2017/ Advice, Commentary, digital, Facebook, Social Media, Strategy/ 0 comments

What the ODPMTT disaster can teach us about doing business online.

On October 10th the ODPMTT or Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management was part of TATT’S 27th ICT open forum. The title was Resilient Communications: Staying Connected During a Disaster. Mark Lyndersay of attended and recently reminded us via Facebook post that everything said at that meeting, especially by acting CEO Colonel (ret) Dave Williams, was lip service to the country at large. There was a lot of talk, but no real “on the ground action” taken.

“Williams, . . . seemed to misunderstand his role as the person leading the country’s response to disaster.” reported Mark Lydersay

This would haunt Colonel (Ret) Williams in the next few weeks as four days of steady rain, flooded out many parts of central and south Trinidad. It was a disaster, and the ODPMTT was not prepared.

A lot of what the good Colonel (Ret), as well as the other speakers, were concerned about, were the big items: falling trees landslides and so on interfering with communication infrastructure. The last thing on their mind was the inability to communicate basic information in a timely manner, especially through something as “mundane” as social media. That seemed to elude the office. However, no one is discounting that landslides and impassable roads are not important factors. These are the things to be worried about for sure but if the population, who is largely on social media, do not receive information in a timely manner, things fall apart and for the ODPMTT, things fell apart.

The Acting CEO of the ODPMTT Responds

Colonel (Ret) Williams ended up in the hotseat when he reported on the flooding occurring in the Southland  as “No big deal”.  And the main reason for the failure of the ODPMTT was a “breakdown of communication.” The very things the ICT conference were supposed to not just talk about, but act upon.

The failure of the ODPMTT left thousands affetce dby floods. Here a family uses a boat to traverse the deep flood waters.

Image via The Trinidad Express. Courtesy Preetan Sohan

The ODPMTT is now under the microscope and trust in it’s services are at an all time low.However all the blame should not be laid at the feet of the ODPMTT, it’s  not the only body that should be held responsible. The GORTT and the regional corporations also have to take their share of the blame. Things were not put in place and action was too long in coming.

What does the failure of the ODPMTT have to do business?

Quite a lot actually. Let me explain. The Colonel (Ret) was half right. The charter of the ODPM is

“To build national Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation capabilities with our partners and coordinate response and recovery operations in order to protect the people, environment and economy and ensure a disaster resilient nation.” – taken from the ODPMTT’s website.

This is its business and in the age of digital media and social, communications is one of of its main pillars. Any business must have a way of staying on contact with its people. Social media has allowed people to, at the simple tap of a button on their phone, share anything and unfortunately the ODPM was ultimately “outshared” by the public it is supposed to serve. If your business suffers a crisis, you don’t want to be like the ODPMTT and passing it off as “no big deal.”

“Too slow” was the criticism, and in the case of the October floods, “complete standstill”.

The National Operations Center (NOC) in the ODPMTT’s pride and joy, connecting the first responders to government services. However none of them thought to call or get in contact with the NOC. No one will call the boss when something goes wrong unless it’s absolutely necessary, just like a business whose employees aren’t properly trained paid or motivated. And the ODPMTT seemed to also decide that they needed to speak to no one about the issue.

The ODPMTT also has the following outlets to disseminate bulletins.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Text messages
  • Youtube channel
  • Email
  • Website
  • App

All of these were silent. There was no content to push or there was no one to push it. You cannot assume that by creating a mobile app or YouTube channel will automatically mean that content will magically appear.

Businesses build their strategies around channels. “Let’s do this, and let’s do that.” But that’s not a strategy, that’s building buildings that no one will use. If there is no physical person to feed content to these channels they become useless. In other words you are wasting time and losing money.

The ODPMTT and any good business needs a content management team. Not one person who will do the job of three. To run a successful social media strategy the organisation needs a strategist, planner and a team of content creators, for both inside the company and outside. All of these people must have a direct link to the management part of the organization and be the first to be notified when climates change.

The TTWC paradigm and the shift in news power.

21 year old Kalan Hosein loves Trinidad & Tobago, he loves it so much he wants to help us know the weather accurately. The local authorities have not taken a liking to him, especially the failed ODPMTT. Why? Many share the TTWC’s posts on Twitter and Facebook, especially during times of inclement weather. His posts are well written, concise and clear, they are also sometimes more relevant than the T&T Met office bulletins. This is one 21 year old, from outside the country who’s showing us the way. We are in a “hot mess” when it comes to social media and disseminating important information.

If you have a business, online is a key component of your strategy, but treat it as “bastard chile” or “something you can do by yourself, on the side” and you are asking for trouble. Spend the money on building the right resources for your online presence. Don’t “do the ODPMTT” and say “It’s not a big deal.”




As of 24/10/17 Retired Colonel Dave Williams, acting CEO of the ODPMTT has resigned. The National Security Ministry issued a statement which confirmed the resignation. It said Captain Neville Wint, ODPM Relief Officer, will act as head of the organisation.

I can help your business form a team to see that your visitors convert to customers who will return and a social media team that will see that there will be no more “communication breakdowns” Contact me today. Let’s talk about your plans.

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